I love her even more in person than I do her words. Words don't do her justice.
For her lyrical words that capture me in poetry and voice of truth, flow out from this woman before me, the one whose deep, dark eyes nearly disappear in smile. Months ago, I found her, read her, and my heart knew, don't let this one go. I commented on her blog post and she responded on mine, and it's been back and forth between each others' online homes since. I never believed an authentic friendship could be nurtured here in this bottomless universe of internet, this space without walls or kitchens or backyards. Until I met her.
At a writer's conference this past weekend, I didn't know why I was there. It's taken years to call myself a writer, even longer to call myself an artist, and yet the words still don't roll off my tongue. But there I was, at my second conference in two years, barely holding it together, and I knew at least this: my friend was here. She was part of the planning committee, and I really didn't expect any time from her, except a hug and a quick chat. When she found me eating at a table, her hug told me she was as glad to see me as the beam on her face and the love in her eyes. Later, she leaned over and whispered, "Can you get away for a little bit after this? I just want to sit with you."
I just want to sit with you. It's not often, really, I hear these words. My throat was swollen and sore, my head full of pressure, my ears aching, my nose plugged up, and normally all I'd want to do is high tail it home and slip into sweats, but all I wanted to do was sit with her, in this sickness, in all the brokenness I came to the conference with, and be known.
She was goofy, exhausted, comfortable, apologetic, and I told her, "Please, I love you like this." This real flesh-and-blood-sleep-deprived-giddy-in-need-of-a-good-drink you.
In the pouring rain we drove to a restaurant and ordered steaming bowls of pho and sat laughing over how we fake it with chopsticks. Almost as soon as our rear ends touched our seats, she fixed me with those sincere eyes and said, "Talk, please. I want to hear you speak. Everything, I want to hear everything."
So I poured it out, to this virtual stranger who so quickly became a sister, without self-consciousness or shame. My journey this past year. The brokenness of my life. She held my words with tear-filled eyes and gave me one of the greatest gifts we can give another soul: she heard me. She enjoyed me. She was witness to my story - the mess, the glory, the suffering, the beauty - and there we met, even deeper than the words that have passed between us online or in this booth over dinner.
But then, glory of glories, she opened her heart and shared a piece of her story with me. And I sat stunned by the knowledge that we know each other for reasons we couldn't have known beforehand. Stunned by the love in my heart.
Another friend I know first in her writing and have yet to meet face to face sent this to me - "It is amazing that when we don't have to traipse through all the fluff of face-to-face relationships, all the learning to trust and chit-chat that goes into building that part, and we can just get right down to the heart (which is what comes out in our writing, right?)."
My heart did a fist pump, yes. That's just how it is. And I became a believer.
And I became a believer, again, in this wooden booth at a Vietnamese restaurant in Portland.
Linking up with Heather